Market Insight

Tivù in OTT initiative

March 11, 2011

Merrick Kingston Merrick Kingston Associate Director, Research & Analysis, Digital Media & Video Technology
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Tivu the Italian digital TV platform, has announced a partnership with Intertrust to develop an over-the-top (OTT) TV proposition using the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP) standard and Marlin digital rights management (DRM) system. The partnership stated its goal is to drive the adoption of Marlin DRM at the national level in Italy.

Tivu is a joint venture by three Italian broadcasters Rai, Mediaset and Telecom Italia Media, which own 48 per cent, 48 per cent and 4 per cent respectively. The free digital TV service offers a free to air DTT and satellite platform, under the brands Tivu and TivuSat respectively. These platforms are analogous to Freeview and Freesat in the UK.

The OTT platform will allow Italian broadcasters and network operators to create internet TV channels that can be delivered to connected TVs, set-top boxes (STB) and other internet-enabled devices. The technical specifications of the internet TV service platform were not revealed.

The partnership's intention to bring online TV content to the connected living room is not new. Two of Tivu's owners already have hybrid DTT connectable STBs with OTT services, Mediaset's Premium Net TV and Telecom Italia's CuboVision.

However, the aims of the connectable DTT services and the Tivu partnership are different. Instead of being positioned as a value-add to a pay TV (Mediaset) or broadband (Telecom Italia) subscription, the Tivu intitiative is looking to build a new open platform to deliver content. With access to the whole Italian market it presents a cost-effective way of introducing the Marlin DRM.

Before 2009, there were a number of competing platforms for embedding video built around proprietary solutions in Europe, with little in the way of interoperability. However, this is now changing as standards-based solutions are currently being deployed more widely.

Broadly speaking, OTT video services require both IP-tolerant middleware, as well as the means to embed IP video. In Europe, four IP-compliant middleware specifications exist: HbbTV, MHP, MHEG-5 IC, and YouView. While these specifications compete with one another, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive -HbbTV can happily run on an MHP device. Where these specifications differ most substantially is in the application languages they support. Within the HbbTV spec, CE-HTML defines both the language that broadcasters may code in, and the means to embed IP video within an application.

Browser-based approaches to IP video presentation rely on HTML, where the video application is effectively coded as web page that can be rendered by the device. Historically, although browsers could read any web page, they struggled to understand all the content, especially rich media content (videos, games etc.), without additional software for video playback. Although the growth in adoption of HTML5 is starting to change this, video playback always requires a video codec built into the browser or into a 'plug-in' like Adobe's Flash.

The Italian platform differs from the Franco-German initiative HbbTV, a broadcaster-led project aiming to provide a common set of standards for connected TVs centred on the web browser. Whereas broadcasters in France and Germany have decided to deploy hybrid services with a specification designed to merge broadcast and IP content (HbbTV), Italy's implementation relies on a variant of MHP v1.2, which in contrast to v1.3, is not natively designed for hybrid content.

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